What Should I Do With My Pet When I Travel?

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You've been looking forward to going on holiday for a long time. But what about your furry family members? If your holiday plans aren't exactly pet-friendly, you may not know what to do with your dog when you travel, let alone what to do with your cat while on vacation. Fortunately, the options for pet care while you're on holiday are plentiful.

Pet Care Options

Depending on where you live, it might require getting creative, but solutions usually aren't difficult to find.

Board at a Pet Hotel

If your pet is healthy and gets along well with other pets, then boarding them at a pet hotel or a kennel might be a good option. How much comfort, pampering and personal attention your pet is likely to receive depends on how much you're willing to spend, says PetBacker. Here's what you'll need to do if you decide to board your pet at a facility:

two cats sitting by the window and watches people

  • Make sure your pet's vaccinated. In addition to rabies, distemper and canine parvovirus vaccinations, your dog may also be required to receive a Bordetella vaccine prior to their kennel stay. Many pet boarding facilities require a health certificate from your veterinarian as proof that they've had all their shots and are in good health.

  • Rid them of fleas, ticks and other parasites. If your pet is on a regular prevention protocol, this may be included on their health certificate.

  • Prepare enough of their regular food to eat during their stay. Because switching foods quickly can cause both dogs and cats to experience upset tummies, many pet hotels and kennels require that you provide food from home.

  • Prepare their medication, along with instructions. If your pet takes regular medication, provide enough to get them through their stay. Also, write out detailed instructions for the boarder and share your vet's contact information.

  • Let them bring something from home. While it might be tempting to let your pet bring their favourite toy, it's better to bring something that they won't miss if it gets destroyed or left behind. An old T-shirt or blanket that has your scent on it will help give them comfort and reassurance.

  • Take them to visit the facility before your trip. If possible, bring your pup or kitty to the facility a few days before your holiday starts, and let them become familiar with the space and the people who work there. This will help your pet feel more comfortable when you leave them there for an extended stay.

Board With a House Boarder

If you like the idea of leaving your pet with a boarder but think pet hotels and kennels are too impersonal, there's another option: a house boarder. These are pet care professionals who board pets in their own homes. While it's a pricier option than a kennel, it will provide a more home-like setting for your pet, along with personalised care and more individual attention. If this option sounds interesting, there are apps available to find reputable house boarders throughout the U.K. and Europe.

In addition to the items listed above, it's also a good idea to contact the boarder to find out if they have any other requirements or items they'd like you to bring for your pet. Also ask how many pets they watch at a time, and what other types or breeds they'll be watching alongside your pet to make sure your pet will fit in well there during their stay.

Schnauzer boarding in pet hotel

Leave With a Friend

Even better than a house boarder is a friend or family member with whom your dog or cat is already on friendly terms. See if any of your friends or close relations are willing to provide a temporary foster home while you're away. If so, be sure to provide them with food, medication, any special care instructions and contact numbers for yourself and your vet. Consider compensation for any other expenses they incur while caring for your furry dependent as well.

Get a Pet Sitter

A pet sitter is someone who can stay in your home and watch your pet. This can be a great option if your pet would do better staying in their own home. Anyone who watches your pet in your home will need to be provided with a pet sitter checklist that includes detailed instructions for the care of your pet, along with your and your vet's contact information. And for the caregiver's protection as well as your pet's, be sure your pet has had all their vaccinations and that fleas and ticks are under control.

Enlist a Neighbour

If you're not going on an extended holiday, you might be able to find a neighbour who's happy to pop in a few times a day to check on your pets and make sure they're fed, given water and walked to relieve themselves. Since cats tend to need less attention, this can be an especially great option for what to do with your cat while on vacation. A responsible young teen in need of pocket money might also be happy to become a part-time pet sitter at a much lower cost than hiring a pro. And if you don't have family or friends who can watch your pet, a neighbour in need of companionship might be thrilled to take in your pet while you're away.

Swap Homes With Another Traveller

Another good, albeit less conventional, option for what to do with your dog when you travel is to participate in a home exchange. A website like Love Home Swap can help match you with animal-loving travel aficionados throughout Europe and the U.K. who would be happy to exchange homes with you and watch your pets while you watch theirs. Home exchange websites screen their members and provide reviews to help ensure you'll swap homes with someone who's responsible and who loves pets as much as you do.

Whether you hire a sitter, enlist the help of a neighbour or swap homes with another vacationer, anyone who watches your pet in your home will also need to be provided with a pet sitter checklist that includes detailed instructions for the care of your pet, along with you and your vet's contact information. And for the caregiver's protection as well as your pet's, be sure your pet has had all their vaccinations and that fleas and ticks are under control.

Quick Tips for Taking Your Pet on Holiday

While cats are generally best left at home, if you take your dog or cat with you on holiday, there may be times when they can't tag along on your jaunt. If leaving them in your hotel room for a few hours isn't allowed, what else can you do? Finding a pet daycare that can watch your furry friend is likely your best bet. If your activities will keep you out longer, then look for a pet hotel or an overnight boarding facility.

close up, cat and dog together lying on the floor

Start by looking for a pet-friendly hotel in the area where you'll be staying that will welcome your pooch. Look for one that will allow them to remain in the room alone for short periods, or that offers on-site pet-sitting or boarding services. If you can't find such a hotel, check to see what the nearby pet boarding options are. In either case, call ahead to any hotels or pet services you might be using and ask these questions:

  • Do I need to make a reservation for my pet?

  • What are your hours for pet sitting?

  • What are the rules?

  • What are the health requirements for my pet?

  • What do I need to bring for my pet?

  • How long can I leave my pet for?

Another option is to forgo staying in a hotel and instead opt for a rental or an Airbnb that accepts pets. This will give you more flexibility in leaving them behind at your home away from home when needed.

Even if taking your cat and/or dog with you simply isn't an option, there are loads of possibilities for what to do with your dog when you travel, along with your cat, so you can enjoy your trip knowing your beloved companion is waiting for you back at home, safe and sound.

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover and freelance pet writer whose work also appears on AKC.org, Care.com and the Daily Puppy, among others. She's also a novelist who resides in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching deer, wild turkeys and the occasional stray cow wander through her back yard while drinking her morning coffee.